Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Purpose

Setting goals has never been my forte. I'm good at foregone conclusions and great at rash decisions. But goals? Those are structured, planned, budgeted, executed. We -- free spirits, intuitives, emotional beings -- no, we don't have goals. We make plans, we have ideas and dreams, but that's not the same thing. We get stuff done, sometimes big, amazing things, but we're driven by this moment, always, never by the future. At least, not after a certain amount of life has happened -- because eventually you figure out (no matter how sheltered you've been) that the future doesn't do what you tell it to and being too specific is just a really good way of finding that out the hard way. And, shockingly enough, sometimes we just change our minds. Who knew that could happen?

So the trick is to keep the future loose. But, as the song says, "don't let go." You can't build anything if you don't start somewhere and just start laying down your bricks. And even when you realize, somewhere on down the road, that the somewhere you started to build isn't really in the ideal location, or is made from the wrong kind of bricks, well, at least you've practiced building, haven't you? At least you've narrowed in a little bit on what it is your heart most wants to create. And not to get too sentimental or new-agey, but the path of fulfillment is a winding road peppered with signs hammered in place by our heart. Hopefully our brain is helping a bit with placement, because we all know that our emotional centers are fickle and subject to time and the tides and will lead us in circles or into danger and confusion if we are not watchful, but in the end, fulfillment is whatever the heart says it is. It cannot be defined by anyone else or by any standards that do not come from within us. And it's communicated to us in a language of chemical signals and well... feelings.

Unlike animals, who must and do obey their emotional centers at all times, human beings have the ability to do something sometimes called "rationalization." While our heart speaks to us of past experience and the sum of all the information we've absorbed -- our intuition, our emotions, chemicals, and hormones, and physical "pangs" -- our rational mind makes all the final decisions (with the exception of reflexive actions) and plots and points out our future. Basically our human intellect can suggest future directions for that meandering path of the heart to make its way toward. Our rational powers can even push our heart off in directions it doesn't want to go, though that often leads to emotional disaster.

We can also train our heart to feel differently over time. That's called "conditioning" and if it happens on purpose, with purpose, it can be a powerful tool for personal growth. Conditioning is, essentially, teaching physical processes to react in a certain way to stimulus. We condition our muscles when we exercise; we condition our dogs when we train them; we condition ourselves when we stop or start any kind of habit. Conditioning is the way that our rational mind speaks to the "natural" world. And it's our rational mind that carries the responsibility of trying to sort out and interpret those wacky, heart-shaped sign-posts all around us. The rational and intuitive parts of ourselves are, when balanced, equal partners in shaping our day-to-day experiences and the overall shape of our lives. But although they communicate freely and constantly, and they are both essentially us, they don't speak the same language.

And so it can be daunting, to determine how to proceed without having a goal or with having future plans that no longer quite seem to suit, when neither heart nor mind have any overwhelming opinions about where to go next. I have never been interested in opening my sails to the wind and letting them blow me around. And I haven't yet mastered trimming my sails and harnessing the wind to get me exactly where I think I would like to go, so setting off in any direction is risky at best. But change is in the air. Is it simply the restless border between winter and spring? Or does my heart signal a crossroads? And if so, where does it lead?

1 comment:

  1. Intuitive--that would be me. I've never had a rational reason for anything I've done in my life, although sometimes I can come up with one later. Other people might say I've made mistakes, but they've never felt mistaken from inside.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky